County Councilman Tom Quirk had $62,116.44 in his campaign war chest as of May 15, compared with $7,024.68 for his primary opponent, Sheila Ruth.
Quirk, who was first elected to the council in 2010, raised a total of $42,284 between Jan. 11 and May 15, with 35 contributions coming from businesses, organizations or groups, and 27 individual donations coming from 26 people.
Ruth, a web developer and self-described local progressive activist, raised $6,759.66 in that same period through 141 individual contributions from 99 people. Ruth’s campaign did not receive any donations from businesses, organizations or groups.
Quirk’s biggest contributors were Creative Print Group, Kimberly Realty Co., Recovermat Mid-Atlantic and Residential Title & Escrow Co., all of which donated $2,500. The largest individual contribution to his campaign was $1,000 from an architect/surveyor who lives in Baltimore County.
Ruth’s two largest contributions were $1,000 each, one from a retiree and one from a government IT specialist, both of Catonsville. Of the 141 individual contributions to Ruth’s campaign, 74 of them were $25 or less.
Donors may give no more then $6,000 to a single candidate during the four-year election cycle. But there’s no longer a limit on the total amount a donor may make to all candidates. And there’s no limit on how much donors may give to political action committees.
In the five-month reporting window, Quirk’s campaign reported spending $45,408.17; Ruth’s campaign reported spending $6,759.66. Ruth’s campaign also reported an outstanding $3,000 loan.
Todd Eberly, a professor of political science at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an observer of state politics, said Quirk has natural advantages in both incumbency and the size of his war chest.
But, he said, “progressives feel emboldened” and “want to push out what they see as establishment Democrats.”
“If the progressive base of the party turns out for the primary, then establishment Democrats like Quirk could go down,” Eberly said in an email.
Ruth said her campaign strategy “centers around contact with people, which is the most important thing,” and the campaign has enough money to be viable, so she isn’t concerned with the cash discrepancy and spending money on materials that can be distributed, such as yard signs.
She said she’s not accepting or soliciting donations from corporations or developers because she doesn’t “want there to ever be a question” about whether her policies could be influenced by donors.
“I’m running to serve the people, and I want that to be clear,” she said.
Ruth added that her large number of individual contributions, especially compared to Quirk’s, “shows the broad base of support that [she has].”
The primary election in Maryland is June 26. Primaries in Maryland are closed, so only registered Democrats or Republicans can vote; any registered voter can cast a ballot in the general election, Nov. 6.
The County Council has seven members and is considered a part-time job. Council members are paid $62,500 annually for a four-year term, and do not have term limits.